It’s funny what we consider homeless back home in comparison to here.
San Diego, Compton, Hawaii; any of the largest homeless populations of the U.S… my heart has always reached out to them. Each time I walk past these impoverished people in tents, with shopping carts full of clothes and blankets and usually a half eaten McDonalds bag beside them, my stomach clenches and my heart breaks for them. I am constantly compelled to always help, whether it is donating clothing to them or organizing food drives, there was hope, simply one donated sandwich to each of them was hope. To me, these people were rock bottom, to me this was all of the help I needed to give, because I had done my part in giving them all I could. To me, once I helped the community in my small bubble, the rest of the world would be okay.
To me, I never knew worse.
I was sitting in a smoothie bar in Leon, Nicaragua, enjoying a refreshing drink alongside many locals in 100+ degree heat. Anything other than my delicious smoothie was invisible to me in this moment.
I looked up just in time to see two teenage boys, no older than 16, carrying their limp bodies inside, clearly out of place.
Their meatless ribs popped out of their ripped up shirts, and dirty pants swam at their small hip bones. Despite the sweltering hot pavement outdoors, these boys were shoeless, and their burnt feet seemed to be the last of their worries.
One boy carried nothing on him besides the clothes on his back, the other had one thin sheet slung over his shoulder; probably to sleep on to protect his back from the rocky street… lucky him.
Then, the boy walked up to me. He carefully placed his fragile, clammy palm onto my arm and communicated to me through his eyes.
Maybe he assumed I didn’t speak Spanish, or maybe he was too tired and hungry to use his words, but he didn’t need to, as the split second his eyes were on mine, my stomach was sent into twists. With his sad, brown eyes, he told me he needed help, that he was holding on by one last string and simply needed a drop of hope to continue. One last person to show they still cared, somebody to help him.
This wasn’t the first time this had happened to me here.
Breaking his grip from me, I dug my head into my palms, as I knew I had no spare money or anything on me to give to him.
The kid continued to do this to everybody else in the shop. Some didn’t acknowledge him, others backed away in disgust, while very few politely rejected his pleads.
In defeat, he stumbled away.
As I attempted to drink my once delicious smoothie, the sickness in my stomach would not fade away. I wanted to hurl with each sip I took. He needed me, and I wasn’t able to help him.
That’s when I realized, I still had over half of my smoothie left, and could have given it to him. As I walked outside to find him, he was long gone. My heart sank in a way it never has before. I still felt the burn of his eyes piercing into mine. I failed him.
But, let’s say I had given him my smoothie, or let’s say I had several bucks of change on me to pass his way. Besides one refreshing drink and a cheap burger, would I really be making a difference?
As we walked back to our hostel, my legs limp and eyes flooded in tears, we passed a blind lady on the corner, begging. Then, a sick man hoping his half smile would win him spare change. A man trying to sell janky jewelry to feed his son, and many others who had simply given up on trying, lost all hope and just emotionlessly sat on the curbside.
The 1% and the 99%.
The 1%, the lucky few who own more wealth than the other 99% of the population all together, sat in restaurants, eyes on their phones, oblivious to those struggling right outside their dinner tables.
How much is money worth? If I gave a dollar to each starving belly here, I’d be left in debt, and what would that dollar really do? What would it do, if the rest of the world was blind to these issues? What would one person, one dollar be able to do?
Yes, our own community needs our help. Yes, places such as San Diego need our helping hands. But, what I want to know is, why are we isolated, blinded from the rest of the world, from the true and real rock bottom?
When I was 16, my biggest worries was academics and my upcoming soccer games.
This boy simply wants a sandwich he will savor for days.
How has life come to this, when have we stopped helping one another?
They need us.
Today is the day. The day I am going to start my voyage of change.
I do not yet know how I will make a true and permanent change, but all I know is that I cannot do it alone.
I am going to help, somehow, someway, but if we all help together it’ll be more than just a dollar.
The first step is knowing. Ignorance is bliss, but we cannot turn our backs to the rest of the world, hoping somebody else will handle it for us. We will find a way to handle it ourselves.
Be the change you wish to see in this world.
If we all join together, help as one, we will be that last glimmer of hope that so many people need. We will be the change we wish to see.